Leaked audio from a meeting between Tennessee Republican lawmakers shows infighting between members after the vote to expel two Black Democratic lawmakers but also reveals visceral anger, admitted un-Christian-like behavior, and a belief that party members are at “war” for the soul of the republic.
“Please forgive me if my comments do not come off as Christ-like,” Jason Zachary, a Knoxville Republican Lawmaker who reportedly is Southern Baptist and a member at First Baptist Church Concord mega-church in Knoxville where he reportedly serves as a deacon and steward. “I think now more than ever, everyone should realize that Democrats are not our friends.”
As many of Tennessee’s Republican lawmakers identify as Christian, it’s hard for many Christians around the world to reconcile the actions of the lawmakers which seem to be at odds with Christian teachings.
Paul’s writing about the fruit of the Spirit is found in Galatians 5:22-23. In the New International Version of the Bible, these verses read: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
In a move seen by many around the world as filled with vengeance and wrath, the Tennessee Republican supermajority voted to expel African American lawmakers Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, and Rep. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, for breaking a rule of decorum during a protest against gun violence. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, who is white, also participated in the protest, but the House failed by one vote to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to kick Johnson out of the chamber.
What happened to the Christian principles of kindness, love, and forgiveness?
Why not show compassion, forgiveness, or understanding to the three Democratic lawmakers who broke a rule of decorum while trying to make a statement against gun violence?
“They destroy the republic and the foundation of who we are, or we preserve it,” said Zachary.
The Christian religion teaches peace and doing the right thing. The right things always feels right, contrary to comments made by Tennessee Republican lawmaker Scott Cepicky who urged his fellow Republicans to do “what’s right” even if it seems wrong.
“You gotta do what’s right even when you think it might be wrong,” Cepicky said in response to Jody Barrett’s reasoning for changing his vote. He also stated, “If you [Barrett] don’t believe we’re at war for our republic… you need a different job. The left wants Tennessee so bad because if they get us the southeast falls. And it’s game over for our republic.”
National civil rights advocate Bishop William J. Barber II and Tennessee clergy called for clergy members nationwide to come to Nashville for a rally on April 17.
Tennessee Students Demand Action and Moms Demand Action volunteers, part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots network, will join Repairers of the Breach, Bishop William J. Barber II, local and national clergy, and impacted leaders for a Moral Monday rally in Nashville on April 17, demanding life-saving gun safety legislation and an end to extremists in state legislatures trampling over democracy.
Angela Ferrell-Zabala, Senior Vice President for Movement Building at Everytown and Moms Demand Action, and Bishop Barber will join a growing moral fusion coalition of students, survivors, and faith leaders to urge lawmakers to reject dangerous gun lobby priorities and stop using state Capitols to subvert debate and democracy.
“All across the country, and especially in the South, we’re seeing attempted political coups d’etat,” Bishop Barber said. “This must be exposed. It must be challenged in a way that goes deeper than partisanism. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents must stand together to reclaim democracy. Legislators in these houses, when there’s an attempt to shut them down, must stand like the Tennessee Three and say, ‘We will not be silenced. With leading gun safety groups joining our moral movement we are growing stronger by the day.”
The Moral Monday event will begin with a rally at McKendree United Methodist Church, followed by a march and rally at the state capitol, where Tennessee lawmakers are failing to act on gun safety and are instead advancing dangerous bills. On Monday, the House will vote on HB 1202, a bill to make it easier to arm teachers.
Some 60 United Methodist and fellow Christian clergy called on Tennessee legislators to vote for gun-control legislation and against the expulsion of three state representatives.
“Will you continue to allow the gun to be the golden calf of our age?” said the Rev. Shelby Slowey, pastor of South End United Methodist Church in Nashville. “As pastors and Christians, we are begging you to choose peace, both on the house floor and in our streets.”
Slowey, who is the mother of three young children, was among the clergy who led a quickly organized press conference at the Tennessee State Capitol to urge immediate action in the wake of the mass shooting at Nashville’s Covenant School.